What are those vines you see on our trees?
By Orling Searle
A climbing vine on a mature tree can be an enchanting sight, especially when its flowers are in full bloom or when a bird stops to enjoy its berries. The most complex and annoying problem is that many of the vines you see are very harmful to our trees.
Perhaps the simplest way to distinguish between good players and bad players is to monitor how quickly they grow. Native vines and some shade-tolerant ornamental species grow on and around our trees without causing any damage. We are also faced with a number of non-native species that are spreading so aggressively that they are now a monoculture crop that often suffocates and kills trees.
You’ve probably noticed the green mats covering shrubs and trees in open, disturbed areas along roads and highways. The most serious culprit may be mile-per-minute vine, Persicaria leafy, an East Asian species that was first reported in Pennsylvania in the 1930s, and was found in contaminated nursery soil. It can grow 6 inches in a day to form a dense, tangled blanket of tangled vines. It takes hold in disturbed areas where the sun is able to reach the ground where it could not before and continues to spread into contaminated soil found on machinery and along wetlands and river basins. The situation has become so serious that UCONN is asking you to report their location using this form – https://cipwg.uconn.edu/report-mam/.
Many of these invasive vines were introduced for their larger flowers, longer blooms and berry production and can still be beautiful garden plants. The problem begins when they break free from these boundaries to compete for light, water and space with the native vines in our area. Birds spread their seeds, and as non-native, they have no competing species to control their growth.
Take American candy, for example. Climbing the sky Opposite bittersweet oriental, Celastrus orbiculatus thunb. American bittersweet is a climbing vine with attractive fall fruit of showy red-orange seeds that songbirds eat for fuel on cool fall days. Don’t confuse this with Oriental Sweets, an ornamental vine introduced in 1879 that can grow 60 feet annually. The weight of mature vines can topple even the largest trees as they wrap around the trunks in a process known as “girdling” and eventually suffocate the tree.
The other culprit is the porcelain berry, also known as Amour piperine, Ampelopsis glandularis, an Asian vine in the grape family with heart-shaped leaves that was prized for its almost iridescent pink, purple, and azure berries. It has been widely cultivated and is now very widespread along forest edges and disturbed areas where birds and small mammals enjoy eating the beautiful berries, helping it spread quickly over long distances. Our southeastern native, Heartleaf Peppermin, Ampelopsis cordatanow found in Connecticut, will not dominate and also features heart-shaped leaves with small showy white berries that birds love to eat.
Then there’s Ivy’s… and this isn’t about education. The native that you may be well acquainted with but would prefer not to be is Poison Ivy, Toxic roots. Although it climbs trees easily, it rarely causes damage. While birds and other wildlife feed on the berries, it is best to leave them in areas away from patios and paths to avoid annoying, and sometimes dangerous, skin irritation. How can something as seemingly beautiful as English Ivy do so much damage? English ivy grows along the forest floor as well as trees and crowds out most other species. It can be a useful ground cover for the garden but it knows no bounds and is a very problematic vine that is now easily seen in wooded areas. A CT scan recorded a vine measuring 90 feet long and 1 foot in diameter!
Two more to look out for Jasmine in autumn, Clematisan ornamental plant introduced in the 1890s and the kudzu vine, Pueraria montanathe vine that ate the South and is now seen in Greenwich.
Wisteria may be the most stunning thing of all climbing vine flowers. Connecticut has a native species, American wisteria, Wisteria fruitwhich does not grow as vigorously as the Japanese, Flowering wisteriaThe threads are counterclockwise and Chinese wisteria, Wisteria sinensis, which rotates clockwise. Both have been favored in garden centers for decades. You can easily tell them when they bloom, as native wisteria blooms in June-August, while non-native wisteria blooms in March-May.
Our trees need us to be more attentive than ever. It is natural to see them as part of the green background of our lives. Take a moment to look a little closer and supervise it more thoughtfully so you can enjoy the many benefits it offers for years to come. Identifying the vine and removing it when necessary is a valuable component of tree care. When you see the trees have been covered with vines; Take action. You can make a quick identification using the Leaf ID app or speak with your tree care professional.
The Greenwich Tree Conservancy, in partnership with the City of Greenwich, removes vines wherever possible to protect the health of our city’s tree canopy and encourages you to care for the trees on your property and in your neighborhood. If we can be of any assistance, please contact us at email@example.com